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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Ladybugs in Missouri

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They go by names such as the lady beetle or ladybird beetle, but you may be most familiar with one. There are more kinds of beetles than any other insect in the world. And of all the beetles, the most well-known may be the ladybug.

All beetles have tough, armor-like forewings that cover their sheer hind wings used for flying. At rest, the forewings fold down in a neat line along the middle of the insect’s back. In ladybugs, the forewings are shiny and bright: usually red, orange, or yellow with black markings, or black with red and yellow markings. Basically, ladybugs are small, round, and often spotted.

Like many insects, a ladybug hatches from an egg, goes through immature stages as it eats and grows, then becomes a aerial, mature adult. Ladybugs have four immature stages, each of which can look quite different from the others. Then they enter an inactive, shell-covered pupal stage, while they undergo metamorphosis, and later emerge as adults.

Both adults and young are predators, mostly of aphids. Their unquenchable appetite earned them –including the males – their familiar name. In the Middle Ages, these beetles rid grapevines of insect pests. Most ladybugs (especially during their juvenile, growing stages) prey on other insects, especially aphids and scale insects, which suck plant juices and can injure crops. In appreciation of their work, it’s said that wine growers once dedicated the insects to the Virgin Mary, called “Our Lady” by the Catholic Church.

Ladybugs are common on plants in a healthy garden. They often overwinter under fallen leaves or bark and may be discovered occasionally in large resting swarms.

Learn more about Missouri’s ladybugs at MissouriConservation.org.

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